Sunday, March 01, 2015


One of the several romantic scenes in Veiled at Midnight. Keep in mind though, there is more than one romance in this book. 

Cool mountain air carried the fragrance of pines, firs, and deodar forests as they drove out of the mountains into a wide valley the next day. Afternoon sun angled through poplar trees standing like tall sentries along the road.
“I’ll buy you some new clothes. Would you like that?” Cam added to the chitchat they’d enjoyed throughout the journey all that day and during their stops for picnics.

“Yes.” The image of a red sari danced in her mind. She put her hand up to the marble still hanging on its string around her throat and grinned at him. Getting his smile was all she needed, though his conversation still felt like a puzzle with too many missing pieces. 

Inside the city of Srinagar, her eyes could not take in their fill of loveliness. The many waterways could only be compared to photographs she had seen of Venice. Picturesque stone bridges arched over waterways while the balconies of wooden and fretted chalets hung over the water.

Cam parked his car outside an agency, and came out twenty minutes later. “Do you mind if I keep our final destination a surprise for a bit longer?”

“I have given you my heart, Cam. You have my trust as well, janu.”

His face filled with light at the pledge of her belief, though the words cost her. There were so few people she trusted. But was that not what marriage meant—believing in the one you loved?

“Only one more stop, my darling.” His voice grew rough, a sweet roughness like that of a cat’s kiss on her hand, sending a tingle down her spine. “Once I get you alone with my ring on your finger, Dassah, it is my intention to enjoy marital bliss in complete—I repeat—complete seclusion.”

Her stomach went into a wild dervish. Last night she had marred their evening with questions. Today she would show only love, no fretful questions, only trust.

He went into another shop up the street, leaving her still in the car. She did not mind when this honeymoon that he had planned so quickly was a dream of a lifetime come true. She only wished she could stroll along the narrow, winding street with him arm and arm. Glancing at the few English and Europeans in the street, perhaps it was best she wait until they were married to outwardly act his wife.

He came out a while later with several large flat boxes and put these in the boot of the car. The smile he sent her set her pulse to tripping. Since last night when he had held her hand and ran with her to the car they had not touched, not even a finger tracing the side of a cheek. Her breath ceased. But now he was here…sitting beside her…driving her to their wedding.

Her breathing resumed a normal rhythm as Cam pulled the car up to a mooring where a long, slim flat-bottomed boat waited, that Cam told her was called a shikara. He helped her into the shikara, and along with the young Kashmiri man, Cam packed the bags and boxes into the craft. Cam learned the driver’s name and passed it on to her—Asheesh—who took his position at the back of the shikara. At last, Cam sank onto the seat in the middle of the craft with her, a gaily colored canopy flapping above them. Asheesh dipped heart-shaped paddles into the water and pushed them forward.     

Trailing branches of willows whispered along the waterway as they glided past. For the first time since last night, Cam touched her by drawing her near to rest her head against his collarbone. She breathed in the clean scent of his cotton shirt as the sun set. Snow-packed peaks around them flushed like a ripe peach as their craft slid out to the openness of an immense placid lake, dotted with lotus blossoms.

She tilted her face up. Cam filled her vision with the angular line of his jaw, the strong mouth that appeared vulnerable the closer she inched toward him. His fresh, warm breath fanned her hair, and she arched closer as he drew her nearer, tracing his finger along the line of her cheek, the outline of her lips. “My beautiful—” His voice broke. “Sweet janu, I don’t deserve you.” He buried his face at the side of her neck, and she clung to him, looking over his shoulder, her mouth still yearning for the touch of his lips.

She stroked the roughness of his jaw where he needed a shave. “Will we be married tonight?”

He looked out to a light glimmering on the far side of the lake. In the growing darkness she couldn’t make out what it was. A house on the shore? Another shikara? “I hope so, janu. I hope so.”

She snuggled close, though he had said he did not wish for touch until they were married, but his use of the Hindi endearment filled her to overflowing.

“From this day forward,” he said, “nothing will ever separate us.” His gaze did not waver. “Not nationality, nor country, nor people. We’ll be one before God, forever.”

The light across the lake brightened, the closer they drew. As their shikara pulled alongside a small houseboat moored at the bank, this part of the lake struck as more of a backwater, hidden, secluded. 

Perfect for a honeymoon…if one did not wish to be seen.

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